I think it’s a bit late for me to wish you all a “Frohes Neues Jahr” now, as I write this post four weeks into 2017. It’s nearly February! Nevertheless, I hope everyone enjoyed the festive period. I enjoyed going home a lot, as I was able to see my family as well as a few friends I hadn’t seen in months. Father Christmas gave me some wonderful new socks to replace all the “odd” pairs of socks I’ve acquired… My landlady in Germany also gave me a book all about the local area, in English as well as German, so I was able to tell my family all about Nordrhein-Westfalen and Moenchengladbach. My holiday was relatively calm, and luckily I can’t remember there being any Dyspraxic Disasters.
Ambiguity at the airport
Having said that, the night before my flight back to Germany, the WiFi typically decided to crash. I had forgotten to print out my boarding pass a few days in advance, and on the morning of my flight, we rushed to my grandparents’ house. At first my computer wouldn’t connect to the WiFi, but with perseverance we found a solution. I did panic, however – imagining the Worst Case Scenario as usual, that I would have to pay a fine for checking-in at the airport, or even worse, that they wouldn’t let me onto the plane.
At the airport, the Flight Departures screen had been fixed on “Please Wait – more information soon” for at least ten minutes, before the message “Flight to Duesseldorf – cancelled” flashed up on the screen. “What on earth am I going to go if I can’t get back in time for school tomorrow?“, I was thinking. But then, a minute later, the gate number appeared. “Boarding at Gate 33“. I was not the only one to be in a stressed state of confusion – was the plane running to time or not? I bumped into a woman whose destination was also Duesseldorf, and I asked her if she knew what was going on.
I asked in English; she replied to me in German. The woman’s tone of voice indicated that she was as uncertain as I was. [She later explained that she was originally from Poland, and worked in Duesseldorf as a nurse. She had just paid her annual visit to her daughter and family in England, and did not remember much at all from her schoolgirl days of English lessons.] The airport staff were milling around – one minute telling us the flight had been cancelled, and the next telling us it was delayed! I relayed all the English information back to my fellow passenger in German, and was happy to be able to put her at ease through my knowledge of both languages. So there was a positive to the saga! 🙂 You never know when you might be able to help someone in a small way.
Chaotic days in the life of an English oral examiner…
So, making it back in one piece (even up the five flights of stairs to my apartment with my 20K suitcase and laptop bags) was an achievement. Following that, my first week back at the school was full of more chaos, as my Year 10 classes were preparing for their approaching oral exams in English. I have been taking on a few extra hours each week to assist with oral simulations/mocks, to give the children (especially in the Grundkurs) the best chances of passing their Schulabschluss (school-leaving certificate).
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked if I would examine the oral exams, and mark the pupils by giving them grades. Me!? A proper examiner? I didn’t feel adequately trained or prepared to be in the position of labelling sixteen year olds with numbers that would undoubtedly affect their future. It was hard to say no to the request – I’m sure many of you can relate – but I am glad I stuck to my gut and made a compromise…
Last Monday and Tuesday were the most chaotic days I have ever spent at school – more so than my first week. I was at school all day to sit in on the oral exams, with two examining teachers. My compromise was that I wouldn’t give grades, but would note down my opinion on the grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation of the candidates. Even so, it was a challenge for my mind to process everything quickly enough, and there wasn’t time for any proper break between each exam. I also had to go on many marathons to the photocopying machine (I must confess we aren’t best friends) as the examiners realised last-minute that we were lacking some important exam sheets. I simply couldn’t remember the four digit pin code for the photocopying machine, despite having been asked to copy documents fairly regularly. I’m heavy-handed especially under pressure, and managed to press a button I shouldn’t have pressed, resulting in the whole system crashing…
It wasn’t easy, but there were some positives too. Having taken several oral exams before (French and German GCSE, A-Level, then two years of University exams), I was able to relate to the pupils’ anxiety just before they had to enter the preparation room. I hope I was able to show some compassion and put them at ease slightly. It was also motivating to see certain pupils – who were perhaps more reserved in class, like myself at school – really put everything into the exam, and get the grades they deserved. I did, however, struggle at times when preparing my feedback for some of the less confident candidates. It comes naturally to me to want to be sensitive and understanding to their needs, which is a character trait I have learned is not present in everyone at all times. It also makes objective grading very difficult – whilst I recognise the importance of evaluation and monitoring progress, I am not exactly pro-grading.
At least we know what misspraxic certainly won’t be doing in the future…
I will follow this post with another one very soon, as I have more to say about the following things:
- meeting up with my friend in the Netherlands for the second time
- starting to volunteer in my last weeks in Germany
- an update on my next year abroad placement in France, which I am in the process of organising
Watch this space! I promise to not leave it so long to write next time – as I’m sure you know by now, it’s dyspraxic trait…